Marc J. Blumenthal now offers video conferencing for initial estate-planning meetings. Click here to schedule


I’m ready to get started

What Happens If An Heir Doesn’t Want The Inheritance?

What Happens If An Heir Doesn’t Want The Inheritance?

a small personal standing in a probate paper, estate planning will attorney

A farmer who lay on his deathbed asked his son to make sure that the land would always stay in the family. Upon his death, the farmer’s will leave 320 acres for his wife and 160 acres for each of his four children.

While some family members were overjoyed with their inheritance, others did not expect the million-dollar mortgages that came with the land. According to Iowa Farmer Today, several of the farmer’s children were not equipped to handle inheriting that level of debt.

In Illinois and across the country, an heir can refuse an inheritance. It is important to know when and how to properly do it in order to avoid complications.

When to refuse an inheritance

In many cases, people choose to disclaim an inheritance because of the debt that comes along with it. When someone dies, their debt usually rolls into their estate, and accepting the estate typically means accepting the debt. Taxes can also give some heirs pause. Currently, people can receive as much as $11.4 million (for 2019) without being taxed, though numbers can quickly add up for some heirs.

People also elect to pass on an inheritance for the benefit of others. When a spouse dies, for example, the surviving spouse may inherit stock or cash. Using the appropriate disclaimer in conjunction with a will or other document, the spouse may refuse part of the inheritance in order to pass it along to children. Additionally, heirs who have substantial debt may refuse inheriting an asset, such as a property, in order to enable that property to stay in the family rather than applied toward paying off their creditors.

Lastly, some choose to do their estate planning early and never update plans before passing away. In these circumstances, a disclaimer may correct a will to make sure that assets are passed along as the deceased would have wished them to be.

How to refuse an inheritance

According to the Illinois Probate Act – Right to Disclaim Interest in Property – an heir has the right to refuse either part or all of the inheritance outlined in the will but must do so by filing a written document that includes the following:

  • Specifies the item that is being disclaimed
  • Bears the signature of the heir or his or her representative
  • Is delivered to the transferor or other appropriate party

There are instances in which a person may lose his or her right to disclaim property. For example, if an heir sells an inherited property or has accepted the benefits of an inheritance, he or she cannot refuse it.

Disclaiming an inheritance can be beneficial when done correctly. Anyone with questions regarding when and how to refuse a gift should contact an attorney who handles estate planning cases.

    Get Help Today!

    Simply fill out the our online form, and one of our attorneys or staff members will contact you to schedule your appointment.

    We value your privacy. Your information will not be shared without your permission.

    The use of the internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

    I have read and understand the disclaimer

    Memberships & Associations

    • logo
    • logo
    • logo
    • logo
    • logo
    • logo